Helping parents understand the importance of consistency
Many of us share the fear of becoming a parent. Worrying whether or not we will be a good parent is a common theme among both new and established parents. Many of us experience anxiety around parenting and the techniques that we use. Parenting is hard, there is no set path on how to parent children, as each child’s needs are different.
Becoming a parent when you have experienced intergenerational trauma only makes it that much more difficult. It’s like someone chose the hardest level on a video game for you to play without your consent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win. Being consistency in your parenting techniques is one of the key ways that you help your children thrive.
What makes consistency so important and difficult to maintain?
We live fast paced lives, where every second not doing something feels like time wasted. It can be extremely difficult to lay down a rule and stick to it when you are tired or in a hurry. Many times, we let the little things slip, such as giving up on having our children take responsibility for cleaning their room. Instead, we break down and just do it ourselves, as it can be easier and quicker. When parents engage in this inconsistent parenting it creates internal struggles for your child. For example, if you yell at your child to pick up his toys for two days, then the next two days you decide to pick them up for him and the following day you punish him for not picking up his toys, you’re unintentionally teaching your child that no one is predictable. When things aren’t predictable for a child it can hinder their ability to learn problem solving and social skills.
Rehearsal and repetition are the keys components to helping children learn. We can go back to basic math class for a good example of how this works. When we learned our times tables it was through repetition and rehearsal of the equations. It can be easy to beat yourself up when you learn that you aren’t being ‘consistent enough’ in how you are parenting. Many parents might feel overwhelmed, anxious, angry, or even ashamed, but those emotions can make the problem worse.
The biggest mistake parents tend to make is that they give up after a few days or weeks when trying to change an undesired behavior. Changing a child’s behaviors takes a long time and consistent application of the new ideas you are trying to teach your child. Children need structure and limits, because they are children and not miniature adults, although they do act like it at times!
What you can do to become more consistent
Start simple! Focus on concrete ideas that your children can understand. Consider the following questions. What consistent, concrete answers could you give to your children for these questions?
What time is bed time?
What time do we start getting ready for bedtime?
What time is homework time?
What are the rewards?
What are the consequences?
Practice consistency yourself! Read these questions to yourself and answer them on a daily basis, remember, rehearsal and repetition is important in parenting. Plus, if you are practicing it, you are more likely to use it.
Verbalizing and communicating expectations
When we want change to happen it’s our natural desire to jump all in. This could easily set up parents for failure though. Start small, the first thing you want to do is begin setting the new rules that you want your child to follow. Once you have established the new rules you can begin to implement rewards and consequences to help your child understand that these rules are here to stay.
When making changes to a family system it’s important to know and be prepared for resistance. Depending on the age of your child this can range from tantrums to door slamming, but don’t give in. These behaviors are indicators that your techniques are working and your child is testing your boundaries on how consistent you really are going to be with the new rules. No matter the age of your child, you will be tested. Stay strong and don’t give in, the testing will diminish in time.
Seek therapy when you are struggling
Parents are overworked, overwhelmed, exhausted and often times struggling with inner demons that impacts parenting. In today’s demanding lifestyles it can be easy to fall into the ruts of inconsistent parenting. Often times this leaves parents choosing convenience over consistency. This choice effects your child’s behavior and character, which can present as aggression and destructiveness. Parenting, just like childhood, is a dynamic that is constantly changing. It takes constant readjustments, flexibility, firmness and consistency. If you don’t understand the importance of consistency or struggle to apply it on a regular basis in your home, there is help. There are numerous parenting programs, classes, support groups and professionals who can help you out. Don’t hesitate to use these resources!